Cruise Industry In Legal Turmoil




Cruise Industry In Legal Turmoil

The multibillion-dollar cruise industry is facing a backlash of legal activity brought on by people who have endured injuries and other hardships while on the boat. Since 2001 alone South Florida, the central hub to many cruise lines, has faced over 2,000 lawsuits from passengers and employees alike for reasons ranging from slip and fall incidents to on-board deaths.

The 2005 disappearance of George Smith while on his honeymoon has only heightened safety concerns regarding the cruise industry. Since then, Congress has twice addressed the severity of the issue and what must be done.

Passengers are now expressing their anger openly with the cruise line’s failure to afford the appropriate safety precautions necessary to protect travelers and employees onboard. In reference to injured employees, attorney James Walker commented, “It’s a $25 billion industry. They can’t parcel out a few pennies for these guys who make the industry work?”

The cruise lines are paying penalties though. Representatives for the major lines won’t reveal how much these cases are costing them, but the numbers are high. In South Florida in 2005, 386 lawsuits were filed against the cruise industry for personal injury, wrongful death and other cases of safety violations. The majority of these suits settled between several thousand and over one million dollars each.

The cruise industry however, is aggressively preparing for the influx of personal injury suits facing them with teams of expert lawyers and new regulations to make major settlements exceedingly difficult. Most lines have instated “arbitration” rules now requiring that employees with injuries or other grievance first handle matters with the company privately, prior to taking legal action.

Lawyers representing the injured believe that arbitration efforts will only serve to shortchange people of the compensation they deserve and make the process more difficult for the injured.

Cruise line representatives argue however, that new employee grievance processes alleviate excessive costs and time associated with filing a lawsuit. Adding that the safety problem existing on cruise ships has been grossly exaggerated through media coverage and plaintiff’s lawyers.

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